Why don’t Black people wear their natural hair? Why are they raised to permanently change their hair from its natural state?
Black people do not wear their hair naturally because they have been taught for centuries to assimilate into White society.
Prologue/ Possible Beginning:
For my research essay, I am exploring the social aspects of Black society in America. I want to know why Black people do not like their natural hair. Now I know this is not for every single Black person, but the majority believe that their hair is unattractive, unprofessional, or not “good”. Off of the top of my head, I can answer by saying it is a cultural belief that has been passed on for generation starting from slavery and has been held onto because of racial bias in society. What I don’t understand is why in today’s society, Black people, specifically women, still believe that their hair is inferior in comparison to a White woman’s hair. Even if they fear that they will not be accepted into society, whether it is because they have directly dealt with workplace issues involving their hair or indirectly from their parents, why do they believe that their hair is not attractive or professional enough to the point that they chemically alter their hair.
Another issue is the Black woman’s view of other women. As much as some may say that they do it to make White people comfortable or to assimilate into White society, they do it because they feel that their Blackness is unattractive. Black women will comment and ridicule other Black women for the same hair that they naturally have. If you were changing your hair for the White people, why would you attack the Black people? They are known for calling other female’s hair unruly, unattractive, and unprofessional; they refuse to own their natural hair type.
As many compliments that I have received over the years for having an afro, I have also received lots of critiques, especially form Black people. Usually White people ask annoying and stupid questions like “how do you get it like that?” or “can you straighten it?”, followed by trying to touch my hair and saying how cool or pretty it is. These questions usually irritate me and honestly make me think (and say out loud) “are you stupid, of course I can straighten it” or “I don’t know, how do you get your hair like that?” But when a Black person comments something that’s not a compliment, it is usually along the lines of “you need to get your hair done,” as if I didn’t spend 5 minutes moisturizing and pikking it in the morning and an hour washing and detangling the night before. Some people believe that being“light skinned” girls or boys were more attractive than “dark skinned” or the Black people that would only date Hispanics or Whites because they have better physical attributes and would their children “good hair”.” Not that that shouldn’t be a problem, we are allowed to have our preferences, but It is basically saying Black is not beautiful.
- Introducing thesis, Biological advantage of Black hair; what is natural black hair?
Generations of Black people, specifically women, in America have dealt with generations of social struggle to meet the ideal beauty standard when it comes to their hair. The battle between not being White, but trying to look as though they fit in socially with the Eurocentric beauty standards of this country has impacted the hairstyle of Black people for decades.
Natural Black has ranges from soft, ‘S’ shaped curls to the tight ‘Z’ shaped of a kinky afro. Famous personal hairstylist, Andre Walker, invented the Andre Walker Hair Typing System which rates hair from pin-straight type 1a to the kinkiest type 4c; most Black people being typer 3 and 4 (**Nina G. Jablonski, George Chaplin.) Originating in Africa, kinky hair evolved for the dry heat by whi
Post emancipation African American culture did the double duty of investing in two things to “fix” their Blackness, their otherness. Skin bleaching and hair straightening were the dual remedies. Skin bleaching has dramatically fallen out of fashion, and is now seen as a politically incorrect ritual of self-hatred. However, altering hair texture is still a booming business in African American communities.
Nappy, kinky, or curly; they are all descriptions of Black hair. What defines Black or African hair ranges from loose, S shape curl patterns to tightly curled hair to the kinkiest ‘Z’ shaped, cross-sectioned strands of an afro.
I know that it is completely true that a lot of White people do not understand the concept of Black hair since they live in their bubble and that there was a time when Black hair was less acceptable and professional, but in modern times, it shouldn’t be a problem.
- “that in many cases the underlying motivation for black women to straighten their hair is due to a deep-seated desire to distance themselves from their natural “kinky” hair.”
- “In other words, many black women seek to reject their natural black features and emulate white physical characteristics as a result of self-hate based on the internalization of a white supremacist worldview and the racialized hierarchies associated with this.”
- “Along with the ideology of white supremacy comes the notion of black inferiority. Hence it is by no means a leap of the imagination to posit that the development of low self-esteem among blacks results from their internalization of white supremacy.”
- “black women had to make do with butter and bacon grease and in some extreme cases, black men used the axle grease for carriages on their hair to give it a straighter look.”
- “Second, after living so long in a country where white supremacy was the norm, black women internalized the notions of black inferiority, which led them to embrace the concepts of “good hair” and “bad hair” – where kinky hair is seen as “bad hair” and straight, flowing hair as “good hair”. As a consequence of this, they tried to straighten their hair even if it meant using dangerous chemicals like lye, which they mixed with potato, vaseline, and soap at times to create a formula known as “conk””
- They have gone to the extreme of using bacon grease or car oil to slick their hair back.
- “the blacks who had been freed before the war wanted to hang on to their position at the top of black society and used as their justification the notion that light skin and “good hair” made them superior”
- “As early as the 1830s the selling of haircare products for blacks was commonplace in African American periodicals in the U.S. North (as were beauty parlours run by free African American women). These early advertisements focused on products to lighten the skin and straighten the hair.”
- During the late 1800s African American intellectuals and middle class men championed black hair in its natural state as the preferred style. This trend became even more apparent in the early twentieth century, during and after World War I, when activists such as Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. Du Bois and J.A. Rogers advocated that blacks, especially women, embrace what they deemed to be a natural and inherent beauty born of one’s African heritage.
- “black women use hair straightening as an assimilation mechanism based on a belief that it conveyed a non-threatening image to white and mainstream society and allowed one to more easily blend in with the rest of society.”
Proves: Black women straighten their hair to be a part of the White society. There also lies self-hatred that has carried on for generations; little girls believing they are inferior and less attractive because of their skin and hair. Natural hair has only been a “trend” three times in the last 200 years. White people have been known to prefer hair that doesn’t look like “wool” because it is unattractive, unruly, and threatening.
- Commendably, Donaldson (2012) links the economic security factor with that of assimilation. She argues that black women use hair straightening as an assimilation mechanism based on a belief that it conveyed a non-threatening image to white and mainstream society and allowed one to more easily blend in with the rest of society.
- “Raven-Symone relates her understanding of hair straightening as a way to blend in and make those unfamiliar with black hair (especially whites) more comfortable. In her words, “Relaxing one’s hair is a way to make everybody around you more relaxed.””
- “According to Abdullah (1998) and Thompson (2009), black women with natural hair in many cases are deemed unkempt, unprofessional and downright unemployable”
- “Hotel cashier Cheryl Tatum was fired in 1988 for refusing to take out her braided hairstyle. Her supervisor called the hairstyle “extreme and unusual”. If, by contrast, Tatum had worn her hair straightened it would have been very unlikely that she would have been fired at all.”
- Black women straighten their hair because of tradition. For generations, they have relaxed or hot combed their hair to reach the stiff, but “straight” look. Black female identity has been chosen before they could choose for themselves as a cultural norm.
- “With the notable absence of celebrity role models and images of women with kinky or natural hair in advertisements and in black magazines (as well as mainstream women’s magazines), there is space for a subliminal message to be communicated that natural hair is not sexy, fashionable or desirable”
- “Good hair” is only achieved when being close to White textured hair and wearing weave.
- Hair that is good without being straight is only seen in girls that are mixed race. Their hair is curly and grows down and long.
- “She further pointed out that because many black women have internalized the pervasive negative bias against African textured hair (black hair in its natural state), it takes them a while to get used to wearing their hair natural”
- Natural hair is unsexy
- “Hairstyles essentially indicated things such as a person’s marital status, age, ethnic identity, religion, wealth, and rank within particular communities or regions.”
- “As such, even though natural African textured hairstyles are growing in popularity, they still are not as widely accepted or as widely regarded as the permed or processed (creamed) and weave-based hairstyle common in largely black communities or societies”
Proves: Black women believe that if their hair is long and straight, they are assimilated into society and accepted by White people. They are also seen as attractive. Having relaxed hair makes White people comfortable. Black women are more marketable for jobs when their hair is straight, so the option might come down to being financially stable or having natural hair. There is a lack of Black women in the spotlight, and when there is, they do not wear their natural hair. It shows young Black girls that their hair is considered unattractive and undesirable.
Afro Images: Politics, Fashion, and Nostalgia Angela Y. Davis
- “ whose unruly hair natural hairdo symbolized Black militancy (that is, antiwhiteness).”
- 60’s era of Black militancy
- “natural hair texture of certain populations in Africa, the African diaspora, Oceania and Asia. Each strand of this hair type grows in a tiny, spring-like helix The overall effect is such that, compared to straight, wavy or curly hair,afro-textured hair appears denser.”
- “In many post-Columbian, Western societies, adjectives such as “wooly”, “kinky”, “nappy”, or “spiralled” have frequently been used to describe natural afro-textured hair.”
- Hair is categorized currently by a number and letter system; 1a being pin straight have and 4c being the kinkiest and darkest hair type.
- “Afro-textured hair grows at an average rate of approximately 256 micrometers per day, whereas Caucasian hair grows at approximately 396 micrometers per day.”
- “An individual hair’s shape is never completely circular. The cross-section of a hair is an ellipse, which can tend towards a circle or be distinctly flattened. Asiatic heads of straight hair are formed from almost-round hairs, and Caucasian hair’s cross sections form oval shapes. Afro-textured hair has a flattened cross-section and is finer, and its ringlets can form tight circles with diameters of only a few millimeters.”
- “afro-textured hair may have initially evolved because of an adaptive need amongst humans’ early hominidancestors for protection against the intense UVradiation of the sun in Africa”
- “Historically, many cultures in continental Africa developed hairstyles that defined status, or identity, in regards to age, ethnicity, wealth, social rank, marital status, religion, fertility, adulthood, and death. Hair was carefully groomed by those who understood the aesthetic standard, as the social implications of hair grooming were a significant part of community life.”
- “In 1960s United States, natural afro-textured hair was transformed from a simple expression of style into a revolutionary political statement. It became a fundamental tool of the Black movementin America, and “[h]air came to symbolize either a continued move toward integration in the American political system or a growing cry for Black power and nationalism.””
- “At this time, an African-American person’s “ability to conform to mainstream standards of beauty [was] tied to being successful.”:148Thus, rejecting straightened hair symbolized a deeper act of rejecting the belief that straightening hair and other forms of grooming which were deemed ‘socially acceptable’ were the only means of looking presentable and attaining success in society. The pressing comb and chemical straighteners became stigmatized within the community as symbols of oppression and imposed White beauty ideals.”
- Conking was used in the 1930s to straighten kinky hair
- Black girls’ self-esteem reflects their hair
Proves: Black hair has been used as a symbol of rebellion and freedom three times in history. It is a way to fight conformity and the pressure to be a part of White society. A political statement. Blackness was seen as a positive attribute in these times. Their hair is a part of their heritage.
Ayana D. Byrd and Lori L. Tharps. “Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America.” Bucknell. 2001. Retrieved 24 September 2018. http://www.libcat .bucknell.edu/wcpa/servlet/org.oclc.lac.ui.DialABookServlet?oclcnum=45094139
Chris Rock “Good Hair”